How you can help Utah's refugee children with school supplies


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Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Thousands of refugee children in Utah now have new backpacks filled with all the essentials for their first day of school.

The Utah Refugee Connection handed out school supplies Thursday at Granite Park Junior High.

It was the first such distribution for the Utah Refugee Connection since the start of the pandemic.

Donations from businesses and the community made the giveaway possible.

"I'm very happy to be a part of this," said Puok Puok, a volunteer who handed out supplies to families that reminded of his own. "Makes me very happy, because I know they will do something good in the school, so they know the community is with them."

He came here from Sudan 27 years ago, as war divided the country.

"So, the situation back home was not good because people are fighting, people getting killed, people running away. They go to refugee camps," he added.

Thousands of refugee families showed up for the school supply giveaway in South Salt Lake on Thursday.
Thousands of refugee families showed up for the school supply giveaway in South Salt Lake on Thursday. (Photo: Mike Anderson, KSL-TV)

At 21 years old, his family depended on organizations like the Utah Refugee Connection to organize this drive each year.

He gained something more than school supplies.

"It represents a kid going to school in a new country, in a new situation," said Amy Dott Harmer, executive director at the Connection.

She said communities and businesses all over northern Utah came together this year and gathered nearly 5,000 backpacks.


Every kid needs to start the school year with a little bit of confidence.

–Amy Dott Harmer, Utah Refugee Connection


"Every kid needs to start the school year with a little bit of confidence," she said.

"They are very excited because some of them, they don't expect this to happen," Puok said.

It's community support that continues to help Puok and his family of six kids.

It's why he keeps coming back to give back.

"I come empty-handed when I come into this country, but now I'm somebody," he said.

The Utah Refugee Connection needs help with basic school, home, and hygiene supplies year-round.

You can get more information on how to help here.

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Mike Anderson
Mike Anderson often doubles as his own photographer, shooting and editing most of his stories. He came to KSL in April 2011 after working for several years at various broadcast news outlets.

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